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Autridge gets his Derby among a sea of orange
08 Mar 2017

While a sea of orange caps went wild in the stand, Stephen Autridge cast his mind back more than 35 years as Gingernuts crossed the line first in the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie today.

On Boxing Day 1981 Autridge had experienced the low point of his time in racing when his mount, New Zealand Derby favourite Altitude, suffered a catastrophic haemorrhage midway through the classic and died minutes later.

Today he stood in the same birdcage that he had trod so sadly through all those years ago and fought back tears that told a quite different story.

“1981. In some ways it seems a long time ago but to be standing here now after finally winning the Derby, it sure takes you back,” said the wistful trainer, who prepares Gingernuts in partnership with Jamie Richards.

For others in the Gingernuts camp, any tears that flowed were pure joy. Blair Alexander, who had joined forces with Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis to syndicate the $42,500 Ready to Run Sale purchase, was the toast of the town.

Through his workplace at the Auckland advertising agency FCB, Alexander drew in a bunch of workmates and friends who today sported tangerine caps with bold blue print declaring “G-Nuts” as the crowd favourite for today’s classic.

“With a bit of luck I might get a pay rise,” declared Alexander, who is the partner of former Te Akau stable jockey Matt Cameron. “No this is great, I don’t think I’ll be taking my cap off tonight!”

Cameron was Gingernuts’ jockey when he hit form in a lowly Rating 65 race at Te Teko in late January, and Johnathan Parkes was on board for the Iffraaj gelding’s amazing first-to-last win in the Avondale Guineas two weeks ago.

But today the responsibility lay with recently reappointed Te Akau jockey Opie Bosson and he rode the type of race that he’s renowned for, settling the chestnut gelding sixth one out from the rail before lodging his bid at just the right time.

While others such as the favourite Savile Row were battling on the home turn, Gingernuts was just getting serious. He swept up wide with 250 metres to run, lay in for a few strides and then surged forward to collar the Australian raider Rising Red and draw away to score by a length.

“I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me and I never spent a penny throughout,” said Bosson, who had ridden Mongolian Khan to victory in the same race two years ago. “He did it easily in the end.

“It’s good to win the race for Te Akau and to get these big results is what we need. It’s awesome for Steve, who has been my number one supporter right from day one.

“Whenever I’ve been down he’s been the one to ring me and cheer me up. I’m stoked to do it for him.”

Bosson, who is Autridge’s godson and served his apprenticeship with him during his first stint with Te Akau, rode four winners on today’s Derby programme. In late January he also won the only other $1 million race on the New Zealand calendar, the Karaka Million on the Fortuna/Te Akau filly Melody Belle.

Hall Of Fame, who was the other 2015 Ready to Run Sale purchase made by Ellis, provided the same combination with a Group One win in mid-January when winning the Levin Classic at Trentham.

D Ryan
The Informant